David Meyer, someone in process of converting from the PCA to the Roman Catholic denomination, made some comments in a recent thread:
My Reformed ears were absolutely shocked at what I read from the early church fathers.
At seminary my friends who study the early church are neither shocked nor surprised. And they don't find such readings leading to Rome either.
Go ahead and call me a rube and say I don't know any better, but the fact is, history looks anything but Protestant... which was Newman's point.
Except Newman also implicitly concedes that the early church looked nothing like modern Catholicism. That's the critical takeaway from such a radical appeal to development; Newman's thesis strikes me as the kind of concession which makes reference to (and critiques of Protestantism based on) the early church functionally worthless. The question no longer becomes which denomination more closely resembles the early church (framed as it is on terms I would generally reject), but which denomination has the authority to properly develop the early tradition. Even if, as is often the case with Roman Catholic doctrine, the early church does not resemble the modern Magisterium's beliefs in any serious fashion, such is defensible because Rome ultimately has the authority to develop the early church's beliefs as it wills. But once this appeal is made, the debate has already shifted to a different field. Fidelity to the early church is simply a cover for fidelity to Rome.
More of the "they are dumb, that is why they convert." nonsense.
Ignorance is what we find among many converts, leading or otherwise, to Catholicism. They demonstrate a serious lack of knowledge about both the early church and the very Reformed doctrines which they claim they are rejecting. Concerning the former, I'm often able to determine from where a set of early church quotations has come by simply copying and pasting portions of it into a Google search. The results are predictable; the Catholic has simply lifted the entire set from some website, typos and all, without any evidence of critical interaction with those texts, let alone evidence of having at least read the context of those passages. They care more for the appearance of intellectualism than the hard work necessary to obtain the genuine product.
The latter failure of doctrinal comprehension is particularly revealing--they consistently fail to properly represent Reformed doctrines or demonstrate that they really understand them. This casts doubt on their claims to have seriously wrestled with the doctrines of the Reformation. It would seem these converts were (and are) more interested in inflating their egos than pursuing "the truth."
If we were to compare the big names I would dare to bet that of converts one way or the other, FAR MORE itellectuals (big names) go towards Rome than the other way around.
1. The top universities are filled with atheists, skeptics, agnostics, secular pluralists and all manner of anti-Trinitarian "Christians." The trend of "intellectuals" has been away from Christianity in general, so why would you appeal to such a thing? To be intellectual indicates little, if anything, necessarily positive about a person's spiritual state or about where the evidence leads.
2. Converts to Catholicism are notorious for dismissing the intellectual leaders of their denominations and acting as if such people are either irrelevant or downright heterodox. These converts behave as if they are the gate-keepers of true Catholic belief. The appeal to intellectualism is just a convenient abstraction.
3. Consider the nature of intellectuals in general. They often arrive at their status as "intellectual" by appealing to, pleasing and working within the fundamentally insular institutions which currently set and guard the standards of intellectual discourse and orthodoxy. But whether these standards properly represent truth is up for debate. And the "intellectual" life can be just as much about scholarship as it is about the cult of celebrity, worship of the ego and self-selection bias; indeed, the former often serves the latter. Intellectuals can hold certain positions or change beliefs for any set of reasons, none of which necessarily have to do with proper evaluations of evidence. The whole approach here seems to be nothing more than a refined appeal to consensus.
Please, I beg you, show me the equivalent of Called to Communion for the Protestants. I mean Protestants that were conservative Priests and men with degrees in theology from conservative Catholic seminaries, that then converted to the "protestant church" because of reasons of conscience.
This assumes a Protestant equivalent to Called to Communion is something to which we should aspire. But why would we want to engage in the cult of celebrity which defines the modern Roman Catholic apologetics industry? We should care about pointing people to Christ, not to conversion stories, even if these stories are overlaid with all the finery of sophistication and erudition.
And what would such a thing represent in general anyway? How many learned scholars and priests did Christ convert from the "intellectual" class of his day, scholars and priests who heard him preach, sometimes directly to them, knew his miracles and wrestled with his beliefs in light of their thorough knowledge of both the Scriptures and Jewish tradition? The response was clear and tragic--the intelligentsia lead the cries to crucify the Son of God. Whatever implicit standard you're offering here discredits the success of Christ's earthly ministry.
The true and better equivalent of Called to Communion, if we are to seek such a thing, is the uncelebrated faithfulness of countless Protestants who read the church fathers, benefit from their writings, and continue to faithfully serve the Gospel, instead of forsaking it for the fleeting egoism of being the center of a Catholic conversion narrative.
But perhaps you'd find this witness more convincing if these Protestants set up multiple blogging communities celebrating, not Christ, but their continued and steadfast adherence to Reformed doctrine.